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formal essay #1 - Ying Li Dr Muriel Brennan ENG 110AG Feb...

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Ying Li Dr. Muriel Brennan ENG 110AG Feb. 23, 2008 The majority of people live in a real world where they communicate and interact with one another daily. However, there are also those having difficulty intermingling with others in everyday life and having to lead a life in illusions. Miss Brill, the protagonist in Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill”, is among those few people. Ms. Mansfield illustrates the lonely old woman as one who attempts to alleviate her loneliness by ritually watching and listening to the passers-by at a public park in France, even though she eventually has to confront the self-deception. Through illuminating insights into Miss Brill’s character, exploring the author’s perceptions, dissecting the symbolism, identifying her lack of self-awareness, and revealing her self-deception, it is apparent that the author is trying to convey the pain of loneliness and unconscious attempts to feel life through the experiences of total strangers. The first sign indicating Miss Brill’s need for companionship is evident in her perception of the music which the band is playing at the Jardins Publiques: “It was like someone playing with only the family to listen” (Mansfield 85). Despite her loneliness, she is considering herself a part of this family that the band is entertaining with its music. The author employs the Jardins Publiques, a public park as the stage where Miss Brill habitually acts as a spectator who finds enjoyment and satisfaction from watching the other people’s “plays”. “Ho, how fascinating it was! How she enjoyed it! How she loved sitting here, watching it all!” (Mansfield 85) Though she yearns to talk to them, she chooses to just listen so she can remain a bystander fantasizing on her own. While
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Li, 2 listening, she is able to imagine that she also plays a part. This habit of "listening as though she didn't listen" helps her to feel included. When I read it the first time, I found that the story looks very simple because it has a straightforward plot with little action. While in my second reading, I found it a much deeper story because the feeling inside Miss Brill grasped me profoundly. The author does not describe who Miss Brill really is, but it is evident that she is very lonely and deems this ritual activity on Sunday as her only life pleasure.
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